When her life goes off the rails, 17-year-old Erin, an American high school student, spends a semester abroad trying to get it back on track.
Erin’s overly anxious and status-conscious mother has big plans for her time in New Zealand. She is to work on her college applications, pursue extracurriculars, and, most of all, transform herself into a stellar Ivy League applicant. But while the South Island promises beautiful vistas, exciting adventures, and new friends, Erin’s privileged upbringing renders her ill-prepared for her Kiwi host family’s modest home. It is not until she sees the benefits of a slower-paced, nature-filled lifestyle that she begins to appreciate her new setting. But when her past returns to haunt her, it is up to Erin to decide whether to turn back or keep looking forward. Flashback chapters unfortunately prove distracting rather than building suspense or enhancing character development. The unfolding love story is sweet, Erin’s metamorphosis is engaging, and the details about New Zealand are informative, but the narrative is flattened by its own construction. Erin’s best friend back in the States is Indian-American, and her love interest is a sexy, tattooed, athletic Chinese Kiwi. She also makes some Maori friends; most characters are assumed white.
Epic landscapes and tender moments fail to coalesce. (Fiction. 14-18)